Enter the spy in diplomatic war
What shut down? This is Lashkar speaking
Donor pressure on Pervez
Border bristles, hotline frozen
Seniors, shape up or ship out
Siblings locked in land-sale skirmish
Boost to art with bout of brainstorming
Stray violence in Gujarat civic polls
Russia drops Roerich body claim
Calcutta Weather

Islamabad and New Delhi, Dec. 23: 
Charges of spying were met with allegations of torture as the diplomatic war with Pakistan exploded into its second round amid heated exchange of words between the leaderships of the two countries.

Mohammad Sharif Khan, an official of the Pakistan high commission in Delhi, was picked up for questioning by police when he was allegedly receiving “sensitive” documents from an employee of India’s parliament secretariat. The police arrested Ajay Kumar, senior executive assistant in the secretariat’s question cell, for supplying documents relating to defence, atomic energy, nuclear research, railway security, ship designing and technology upgradation to Khan at a restaurant at Rajendra Palace in West Delhi yesterday.

Khan, 38, was handed over to the high commission after questioning. Pakistan accused India of kidnapping and torturing a member of its mission and said it had lodged an official protest with the Indian authorities.

The Pakistan foreign ministry issued a statement saying that Khan was kidnapped by Indian intelligence operatives while he was shopping. The statement did not mention the status of Khan.

“During interrogation, he was stripped naked, severely beaten and tortured, resulting in visible and internal injuries. The medical report confirms that Mr Khan was ruthlessly beaten and tortured,” the Pakistan statement said.

The embassy worker was released after five hours, but was forced to sign a statement acknowledging involvement in espionage, it added. “The ministry of foreign affairs has lodged a strong protest with the Indian High Commission in Islamabad over this reprehensible, provocative and unacceptable action on the part of the Indian government.”

Delhi police said Kumar’s interrogation revealed Khan had in the past asked him about security arrangements around Parliament House and to arrange a pass for him to view the proceedings inside. They said Kumar had told Khan parliamentary security staff were unarmed while on duty.

“It is being probed if there is involvement of Pakistan high commission-based intelligence operatives in the recent attack on Parliament,” the police said.

A trap was laid near the restaurant after receiving a tipoff that a Pakistani intelligence operative would meet an Indian at 8 in the evening.

Alleged involvement of a Parliament employee adds a more serious dimension to the incident than the questioning of spying, a routine charge.

India has been claiming official Pakistani link in the attack on Parliament through ISI handlers of the terrorist outfits Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad.

It has already had Mohammad Afzal, arrested for being a part of the conspiracy, go on television to indicate Pakistan’s involvement. Ajay Kumar’s alleged disclosure that Khan had asked for information on Parliament security is even more damaging for Islamabad.

The incident came to light as the war of words between the two sides escalated. Foreign minister Jaswant Singh said it was “extremely regrettable” that President Pervez Musharraf had chosen to describe India’s decision to recall its envoy from Pakistan as “arrogant”.

“I do not wish to descend to the level of military barrack-room dialogue. This is extremely regrettable.”

After a meeting of the Cabinet committee on security, Singh said: “I cannot help feeling that the reaction to an issue of such importance (only shows) he is living in an Alice in an Wonderland kind of situation.”


Karachi, Dec. 23: 
The offices of one of the jihadi organisations, Lashkar-e-Toiba, have not been sealed, a spokesman for the group India accuses of being behind the December 13 attack on Parliament told The Telegraph.

A report appeared in some papers here today that its offices had been closed down in the wake of President George W. Bush asking President Pervez Muharraf to act against terrorist outfits. India has been demanding action against Lashkar and Jaish-e-Mohammad since the attack on Parliament.

Contacted at Lashkar’s Karachi office, its spokesman described the report as false. “You are talking at the Lashkar office and you have called on the phone,” he said.

The report, circulated by a little-known news agency ANN, had said that all the offices of Lashkar had been sealed and their phones disconnected.

The spokesman also denied that the accounts of the organisation had been impounded in Pakistan.

Bush announced last week that Lashkar’s assets in the US had been frozen, along with one other Pakistan-based organisation, UTN.

A couple of days ago, the Pakistan government is said to have taken the decision to freeze Lashkar’s accounts. However, so far the central bank has not issued any instructions to local banks.

After the US declared Lashkar a terrorist organisation and put it on the list of banned outfits, the religious affairs minister of Pakistan, Mahmood Ghazi, was quoted by a foreign news agency as saying that the American decision was a result of some misunderstanding. What he possibly implied was that Lashkar was not a terrorist organisation.

Lashkar chief Hafiz Mohammed Saeed has also denied that the outfit was involved in terrorist activities. He has denied his organisation’s involvement in the attack on the Indian Parliament. “Our organisation does not believe in killing innocent civilians,” he had said, commenting on the Indian allegation.

Lashkar, however, admits that its supporters and activists carry out, what it calls, jihadi activities in what they believe to be Indian-occupied Kashmir. “The fighters are Kashmiris and they have been waging a struggle to end the illegal occupation of their land by the Indian forces,” he had recently said.

Another militant group, the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front, led by Pakistan-based Amanullah Khan, today contested Bush’s description of Lashkar as a Kashmiri organisation, adds PTI.

Khan has written to Bush and secretary of state Colin Powell saying Lashkar is not Kashmiri. Kashmiris were “surprised” to hear Bush say that, Khan wrote.

Lashkar’s leader Hafeez Mohammad Saeed, a teacher of Islam in Lahore Engineering College, is a Pakistani. Jaish, also named in the context of the December 13 attack, is headed by a Pakistani, too.

The Front asked Indian and Pakistani leaders to keep all options other than war open to reduce tension. Expressing concern over the developments following the strike, its secretary-general Haider Hijazi said these had harmed the Kashmiris’ “indigenous struggle”.

“Such acts only added to create an Afghanistan-like situation in Kashmir and helped India win over the sympathies of the international community,” Hijazi said. He called on the international community to help India and Pakistan resolve the Kashmir dispute.


New Delhi, Dec. 23: 
Mounting pressure on President Pervez Musharraf for acting against terrorist outfits operating out of Pakistan kept up India’s hope of a diplomatic resolution to the crisis caused by the attack on Parliament.

The European Union has lent its voice to President George W. Bush’s call on Musharraf to act against terrorist outfits based in Pakistan.

Publicly, Indian leaders maintained their resolve to take tough action against Islamabad if the military regime failed to respond to demands for cracking down on the terrorists. Home minister L.K. Advani said a decisive moment has come when India has to act against terrorists and their sponsors.

The EU, which is offering financial support to Pakistan, issued a statement calling for “rapid and firm action” against terrorists by Islamabad. It argued that Islamabad should fulfil its role as part of the anti-terror coalition by acting “particularly against those terrorists based in Pakistan” and working against India.

South Block is pleased with the EU stand because it believes Musharraf will not be able to ignore global pressure for long.


New Delhi, Dec. 23: 
A strange quietude has descended over the weekly hotline contact between the Directorate General of Military Operations (DGMO) of India and Pakistan. The two DGMOs normally speak over the phone every Tuesday and, if the situation so demands, more frequently.

Officially, the defence ministry spokesman said the hotline has not gone cold.

However, with both India and Pakistan reinforcing positions along the border, it is of some surprise to military observers that there has been no official word yet on whether the DGMOs have talked and if there was any measure to defuse tension. Even in times less tense, the DGMOs have met on the border at Wagah.

There is no official record of the conversations between the DGMOs, unless specifically decided. The DGMOs have spoken even during the Kargil war and it was towards the fag end of that conflict that the Pakistani DGMO called his Indian counterpart to give details on the pullout from the heights, practically ensuring safe passage for the intruders as they retreated into PoK.

Since the firing across the border on Saturday night in which three Border Security Force (BSF) personnel were killed, it is even more surprising that there has been no official word on DGMO-level talks. The firing took place over the international boundary and not the Line of Control, meaning it was more serious than the almost daily skirmishes that take place further north.

Sources said Pakistani forces fired over the border that Islamabad calls a “working boundary” in Jammu. This is the area of some of the heaviest troop build-up.

Defence minister George Fernandes, who was scheduled to leave on a four-day tour this morning, rescheduled his trip to attend an “informal” meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS). Fernandes is expected to leave for Patna, and subsequently for Leh, tomorrow.


Bangalore, Dec. 23: 
What began as a review of coach John Wright and physio Andrew Leipus’ performance in early October ended last evening with a review also of how senior cricketers have been faring.

In the process, the straight-talking Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) president Jagmohan Dalmiya conveyed an unambiguous — and unprecedented — message to all players: “You will be accountable.” No longer can even the seniors take their place for granted.

Sources said that of the five seniors present, Sachin Tendulkar was the first to “acknowledge” their own performance has been far from consistent. Others present were captain Sourav Ganguly, vice-captain Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble and Jawagal Srinath.

The quintet had been invited by Dalmiya to offer views on Wright and Leipus. It’s when the accountability bit came up that Dalmiya struck. Then, in the presence of the seniors (and Wright), Dalmiya instructed the Chandu Borde-headed selection committee to omit any player “short on motivation” or “incapable” of giving off his best for India.

The directive couldn’t have been better timed. Though India beat England 1-0 (the series’ final day saw no play at the Chinnaswamy), they were on the backfoot in both the second and third Tests. Moreover, the record after stunning Australia in February-March makes dismal reading: A drawn series in Zimbabwe, followed by defeats in Sri Lanka and South Africa. In the ODIs, too, India didn’t win a single title.

Borde and his colleagues (Madanlal, Shivlal Yadav, Ashok Malhotra and Sanjay Jagdale) joined the “discussions” after Dalmiya had ascertained the seniors’ views on the coach and physio. As reported in these columns today, Wright and Leipus’ contracts have been extended — till the February-March 2003 World Cup. There will, however, be a “review” six months from now.

“Getting an extension is great... I’ve been trying to do my best but, as always, there is room for improvement. I wasn’t worried that a professionally-handled review was on... In any case, I’m all for accountability,” remarked Wright.

Meanwhile, keeping the World Cup in mind, Dalmiya this afternoon announced the selectors have also been advised to follow a rotation policy. “Between now and the World Cup, they will pick from a pool of about 20 players. This will ensure our players don’t get stale and, at the same time, get adequate rest,” the BCCI president explained.

Asked whether a full-strength team may not then be fielded in, say, the up-coming Test series in the West Indies, Dalmiya answered in the affirmative. “The calendar between now and the World Cup is very demanding. And, if we want the best to be fit for that tournament, they can’t be made to play all matches (Tests and ODIs) between now and February 2003.”

The intent, of course, is excellent. Full marks, though, will only be given to Dalmiya once the implementation has been sincere. Significantly, he revealed that this rotation policy has the senior players’ support. Now that contracts (and graded payments) will soon come into being, noboby should grumble.

Dalmiya said the national side would soon have a physical trainer — a request had already been made by Sourav and Wright — and it would be “obligatory” for all state associations to employ one as well. One understands a South African could join Leipus in the Support Team.

In another welcome development, only players certified fit by Leipus will be considered for selection. Each one of them will continue to get an exclusive fitness programme and monitoring will be done every month. Wright, too, will have a role here.

The “missing links”, as Dalmiya declared, have been “identified”. It’s the results we now await.


Ranchi, Dec. 23: 
The Bihar government has begun disposing of hundreds of acres of land belonging to Jharkhand.

The row is the latest in a series of skirmishes between the two governments over division of assets, liabilities and cadre of the state services.

Last month, Jharkhand industry minister P.N. Singh had alleged that the Bihar government was usurping industrial units in the new state and selling them at the lowest possible prices. Two days ago, the states had clashed over the ownership of Tenughat Vidyut Nigam Limited (TVNL), with Bihar claiming that it had a 99.9 per cent stake in the company.

The Babulal Marandi government, however, says the Bihar Reorganisation Act, 2000, had granted ownership of TVNL to Jharkhand.

Sources said over the past 27 years, hundreds of entrepreneurs willing to set up shop in the region had been allotted land by the Ranchi Industrial Area Development Authority (Riada) in the industrial estates at Namkum, Tatisilwai, Tupudana and Kokar in Ranchi district as well as at Ramgarh, Hazaribagh, Jhumri Tilaiya and Lohardaga districts.

Sources said land were allotted to these units on a leasehold basis though the ownership remained vested with Riada, adding that the authority has so far given land to 592 units spread over 15 industrial areas of Jharkhand.

Figures available from Riada revealed that 472 units had been set up while another 120 are under construction. Of these, 194 units have either ceased to function or have been rendered sick.

Sources said over the past one month, the Bihar State Financial Corporation (BSFC) had begun issuing auction notices to industrial units located in Jharkhand following their failure to repay loans obtained from the corporation years ago against mortgages of their plant and machinery, stocks and even land belonging to Riada.

More than three dozen sick units in Ranchi, Bokaro, Hazaribagh and Dhanbad districts have been served with auction notices, they added.

The sources, however, said while BSFC had begun auctioning these sick units located in Jharkhand to recover debts, the corporation was also selling land on which these industries were located.

The Jharkhand industry minister said BSFC was illegally disposing of industrial units in the state at “nominal values” to its “henchmen” in an attempt to “colonise” vast tracts of Jharkhand land. Singh added that units worth lakhs of rupees were being disposed of at nominal prices by BSFC under the “garb” of loan realisation.

Riada managing director Bachcha Thakur said he had sent a note to the BSFC chairman, protesting against the “illegal” sale of Jharkhand land. Thakur said BSFC was within its rights to realise its outstanding loans through sale of assets of sick units, but claimed that the Bihar corporation could not dispose of land on which these units stand as these were owned by Riada and the Jharkhand government.

Thakur said under the Bihar Reorganisation Act, pending formal division of assets and liabilities, any sale of land by the parent state outside its territory required concurrence of the Jharkhand government.

However, the officer said, no permission had been so far been sought by the Bihar corporation from the Jharkhand government for the sale of the land.

The corporation’s sources stressed that it had the right to dispose of land in Jharkhand as it had to realise the loan that had been advanced to industries.They added that it would continue to do so until it received instructions to the contrary from the Centre under Article 64 of the Bihar Reorganisation Act.


New Delhi, Dec. 23: 
If you think art is all about paint and brush, canvas and clay, then you might have to think again. Today, art is not only about landscapes and portraits, creation of beautiful images. Artists have appropriated concepts from the intellectual’s domain.

Art practices now are increasingly encompassing new technology like videos and cameras and printing processes. It is also about new ideas like multi-culturalism, cosmopolitanism, globalisation, undermining of the nation-state, gender identity and the development of regional identities, as was highlighted in the first event of Sidewinder held in Delhi.

Sidewinder, a month-long intercultural residency programme organised by CIMA Gallery, Calcutta, British Council and Goldsmiths College, London, kicked off its activities in Delhi with a seminar, Cultural Differences in an International Context. The project’s concept was introduced by Gerard Hemsworth, curator of the project and professor of fine arts at Goldsmiths. It was important to move away from the promotion and packaging of culture as exotic, Hemsworth said. To do this, one must re-address one’s values and move beyond the expected rules of engagement.

The theoretical framework of the project was elaborated at the seminar by Suhail Malik, a philosopher by training who is project writer and editor and teaches at Goldsmiths. Given the future of multi-culturalism, cosmopolitanism and globalisation, Malik said Sidewinder proposes new channels to encourage diversity and plurality by staging an encounter between the familiar and the foreign.

Elaborating on his theme, Malik said such encounters would help in “understanding (the) intrinsic nature of the background of culture”. Understanding cultural identities was very much a part of the programme. Malik talked of the new global scenario as “generating hybridisation and non-identifiability of identity”.

It was described by one of the respondents, Geeta Kapur, theoretician and art historian, and Peter Nagy, artist, curator, gallery-owner, as “the McDonaldisation of art”. Kapur also commented on the “cultural mediation”. She spoke of the polarisation of the world after September 11 and said even as the nation-state is undermined, regional identities take over.

Comments at the seminar pointed out that there has been a tradition of other such programmes and that it was not unique. However, Sidewinder is the first of the international residency programmes planned in such a big scale and that brings its theoretical framework in the public arena by throwing it open to a debate. Residency programmes is the latest buzzword in the world of art activities. The residency programmes pre-suppose a longer stay together for artists from different cultures. They also involve intense debates and discussions.

Says Mark Wallinger, the star of the British group: “I have done some work to establish an identity that fights against the totalising forces.”

Wallinger, who represented Britain at the Venice Biennial this year, considers himself primarily a painter. But, he says, he has developed an ironic relationship with painting because of his intimacy with the medium, and has been doing video work since the early ‘90s. Wallinger’s videowork, Angel, shown at Venice, will also be shown in India.

Roberta Smith works with lettering and spells out anti-war messages. Jemima Stehli works with video camera in the area of gender identity, while David Mabb combines in his work decorative and fine art elements.


Ahmedabad, Dec. 23: 
The panchayat elections in Gujarat passed off peacefully but for four villages where police had to resort to firing in the air to disperse warring groups.

The state home secretary K. Nityanandam said: “It was a preventive measure. No one was injured.’’

No incident of arson or looting was reported from any of the villages where the police had to fire about 24 rounds. However, Nityanandam said the firing was “unavoidable”.

The police fired six rounds at Rajda village near Godhra and 10 at Ugas village in Dahod. Bemai village of Sabrkantha district and Sakal village in Gandhinagar district also witnessed police firing. “Heavy stone throwing” was reported from Sakal, Nityanandam said.

Reacting to the firing incidents, the Congress blamed the ruling BJP for “instigating people to resort to violence”. State Congress vice-president Hasmukh Patel said BJP supporters had resorted to the violence as they had sensed defeat.

In the backdrop of the BJP’s successive election defeats in the recent past, the panchayat elections were seen as crucial, especially for chief minister Narendra Modi.

Though these polls are not fought on party tickets, a lot was at stake this time for both the BJP and the Congress, who had an opportunity to test their relative strengths in the run-up to the Assembly elections slated for next year.

The polls were considered an acid test for the chief minister’s popularity. Modi had tried to avoid elections to as many panchayats as possible by offering monetary incentives. Modi came up with the Samras scheme under which incentives of upto Rs 1 lakh were offered to the panchayats that unanimously elected their representatives. About 25 per cent of the panchayats opted for the Samras (harmonious) scheme.

While announcing the scheme in his first news conference after becoming chief minister, Modi had justified the offer saying the panchayat elections were not fought along on party lines. The elections breed animosity among the villagers that affects development, he had said.

But the Congress and several NGOs had opposed the scheme, describing it as a “murder of grass- roots democracy’’.

Some 60 NGOs had participated in the elections this time “to ensure that Dalits and women had due representation in the local self governments’’.


Bangalore, Dec. 23: 
The legacy of famous Russian painter Szetoslov Roerich, preserved at his 457-acre Tataguni estate on the outskirts of the city here is entangled in a battle for riches.

Lying in ruins because of protracted legal battles over its ownership, Russia has dropped its demand to take over the body of Roerich, buried at the estate.

Roerichs — the property owner and a treasured name in Russia — had sought burial of the painter’s body at his ancestral home in St Petersburg alleging negligence in the maintenance of the property.

Expressing unhappiness with the state of affairs at Tataguni estate, Russia has evinced interest in a proposal by the state government to build a memorial for Roerich and his wife Devika Rani, a leading actress of yesteryears.

The issue was discussed at a meeting between Russian ambassador Alexander M. Kadakin and chief minister S.M. Krishna yesterday.

“We are happy with the proposal to build a grand memorial,” said Kadakin, who took time off his three-day trip to Bangalore to spend time at the estate and make an on-the-spot study of the upkeep of the estate.

“The chief minister explained the legal obstacles and the Russian ambassador was convinced of the state government’s intentions to preserve the Roerich legacy. The demand to take over the body has been dropped,” official sources said.

Earlier this year, Kadakin had written to the state government seeking possession of the remains of Roerich to be buried at St Petersburg. He had also expressed displeasure over the shoddy handling of the Roerich estate.

Krishna had replied that the government was helpless as cases were pending before the High Court and a lower court and that his government did not want to circumvent the law.

The battle for the Roerich riches is primarily between Mary Joyce Poonacha, who claims to the legal heir of the Roerich legacy and the government, which has passed an ordinance to takeover the property.

Poonacha was the personal assistant of the Roerichs before the celebrity couple died in the early 90s and is described by police as the villain of the piece who carted off the Roerich riches, including prized artefacts, jewellery and paintings worth millions of dollars. The police have also charged Poonacha of theft even when the ageing childless couple was alive.

Denying the allegations, Poonacha maintains that she had a legitimate will given to her by the Roerichs. The takeover ordinance was stayed by the court following a petition filed by Poonacha.




Maximum: 26.3°C (-1)
Minimum: 13.4°C (-1)



Relative humidity

Max: 91%
Min: 49%

Sunrise: 6.20 am

Sunset: 4.52 pm


Partly cloudy sky. Minimum temperature likely to be around 13°C

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